JEFFERSON CITY — All adults in Missouri will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines beginning April 9, Gov. Mike Parson announced Thursday.
Before then, Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout will open up March 29, allowing 880,000 more Missourians to start the vaccination process. That phase will include construction, manufacturing, higher education and agricultural workers. This tier also includes the homeless.
During a COVID-19-related news briefing, Parson announced that because of the recent increase in supply of all vaccine types, both Phase 2 and Phase 3 will be activated ahead of schedule.
Phase 1B, Tier 3, which includes K-12 teachers, child care workers and other critical infrastructure employees, was opened up Monday, less than a week before this latest announcement. At the time, Parson said, they were preparing to open up the next phase within 45 days.
“However, with the progress we’re currently seeing and vaccine supply expected to increase significantly in the coming weeks, we are well ahead of schedule,” Parson said.
“The federal government has informed us that COVID-19 vaccine allotment to Missouri is projected to increase significantly by the first week of April. Supply projections are subject to change, but it is critical that we start preparing for this potential influx and ensure there is a consistent number of people who are eligible and interested in receiving a vaccine.”
Parson focused on the current success of the rollout that’s allowed for the acceleration of the plan, citing Missouri’s current position as 10th in the nation in terms of second-dose completion. The governor also cited data that show 25% of Missourians ages 18 years old and up and half of Missourians 65 years old and up have initiated vaccination.
After April 9, 4.5 million Missourians will be eligible for vaccination. However, Parson said, they’re anticipating only 60% of those eligible will elect to receive the shots.
Randall Williams, director of DHSS and head of Missouri’s vaccine distribution planning team, said that combatting vaccine hesitancy will be a major priority going forward.
According to Williams, this means reaching out to the people different communities and individuals trust — “your private provider, your clinician, the person who takes care of you, your clergy, the people who you worship with, leaders, state leaders, local leaders” — and working on vaccine education and initiatives with them.
Williams also cleared up a couple points of confusion regarding the vaccine.
The director said that though the general public seems to have some uncertainty about how long the vaccine will work, health care professionals are saying it won’t be a short-acting vaccine requiring regular doses.
“We think it’s effective for at least six months, if not longer,” Williams said, “and all the early evidence shows that it is long-acting.”
Williams also emphasized that CDC guidance stating that fully vaccinated people can gather refers to private setting and small groups, like visiting with grandparents in a private residence.
Vaccine distribution will continue through the mass vaccination events, mostly utilizing the Johnson & Johnson single-dose shots, aided by the National Guard and pharmacy, hospital and local health department distribution. Parson said they’ll also be directing FEMA assistance to focus on alleviating the backlog in urban areas.
Parson said that though there’s been back and forth on the need for vaccines in rural vs. urban areas, going forward mass vaccination efforts will be more focused on urban areas, particularly St. Louis and Kansas City.
“The reality is when you go to rural Missouri in the beginning, you’re going to vaccinate a larger percentage then with a mass vaccination or other sources, so you don’t have to go back,” Parson said. “So then we can take those resources and start shipping those to the urban areas because simply because we know it’s going to be a longer time to vaccinate people in those urban areas.”
The governor noted a couple of vaccination events coming up that will help target these areas, including one at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City on Friday and Saturday, and one at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park starting Thursday.
Regarding whether rural or urban Missourians are more resistant to getting the vaccine, Parson said he’ll be focusing on getting as many willing people vaccines as possible.
“I think it’s important for us all to remember this — this is not a battle between any parts of the state,” Parson said. “This is about us all being Missourians doing the right thing and respecting one another, each one of us.”More information about vaccine eligibility can be found through the COVID-19 hotline, (877)435-8411, and covidvaccine.mo.gov.